Parsons Receives First NSF CAREER Award in Purdue’s Computer Graphics Technology Department


Paul Parsons, assistant professor of computer graphics technology and the latest Purdue Polytechnic Institute faculty member to win the National Science Foundation’s coveted Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award, is the inaugural CAREER recipient from Purdue Polytechnic’s computer graphics technology department.

The $524,222 CAREER Award recognizes and supports early career and pre-tenured faculty who have demonstrated the potential to serve as bold academic role models in research and education and who can lead ambitious advances in the mission of their department or organization. The five-year award is for a single researcher – in this case, Parsons – and aims to combine the principal investigator’s role as researcher and educator.

Parsons’ CAREER project will study data visualization designers’ cognition — how they think, solve problems, and develop solutions — and the kinds of knowledge they rely on when designing. The project will also explore the relationships between communities of research and practice, looking for ways to strengthen awareness, communication and knowledge sharing between them. Parsons expects the research findings to impact the professional practice of design and how he and his peers recommend program content, structure their courses, and ultimately prepare students for successful careers.

“On their own, these research topics are not new, but examining their intersection is definitely unique,” Parsons explained. “I expect our insights to have an impact on how we prepare Purdue students for the demands of real-world design practice.”

CAREER programs last for five years, with funding released on an annual basis. Parsons is still in the planning phase of her project and hopes to develop a mix of diary studies, workshops, in-depth interviews and observational work as part of her data collection process.

“The opportunity to engage with real-world professional practitioners and study them through scholarship is exciting,” Parsons said.

Past Polytechnic Institute CAREER recipients include:

  • Thomas Hacker, professor and head of department, awarded in 2010 for work that developed ways to improve the efficiency and reliability of high-performance computing systems.

  • Alejandra Magana, WC Furnas Business Excellence Professor, awarded in 2015 for her research on identifying ways to integrate modeling and simulation practices into undergraduate engineering education.

  • Mo Rastgaar, associate professor, awarded in 2019 for his work on steerable motorized ankle-foot prostheses for increased mobility in amputees.

  • Byung-Cheol “BC” Min, associate professor and university researcher, awarded in 2019 for his research related to human-robot interaction and multi-robot systems.


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